Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

From crinolines to Y-Fronts, this show explores the changing face of undergarments.

‘Brevity is the soul of lingerie,’ wrote Dorothy Parker in Vogue back in 1916, a truism that pertains to this day, but was far from the case half a century earlier when women wore enormous cage crinolines and whalebone corsets designed to reduce their waists to 19 inches, compared to which modern body-sculpting accessories such as ‘waist trainers’ and Spanx seem positively lightweight.

The V&A’s latest foray into fashion explores both the history of underwear – Queen Alexandra’s floral embroidered stockings, for example– and the way in which fashion labels have increasingly ventured into foundation wear, hence the inclusion of contemporary ‘unmentionables’ designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as specialists in the field such as La Perla and Agent Provocateur. 

Don't miss

A pair of 1930s chiffon knickers decorated with delicate lace, depicting a hunting scene.


Venue details

V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) Cromwell Road London SW7 2RL 020 7942 2000 www.vam.ac.uk

Entry details

£6 with National Art Pass (standard entry £12)

Daily, 10am – 5.45pm (Fri until 10pm)